Japanese castles are among the most unique castles that you will find anywhere on the planet. This uniqueness has a lot to do with their designs. The best castles in Japan are definitively Japanese in style, and unlike the more stereotypical castles in Europe, wood was among the main building materials in Japan. Stone was also used, as is the case with most castles across the globe, and it is interesting to consider that the Japanese castles typically used more stone in their construction than did other Japanese buildings. This has everything to do with their main roles as defensive fortifications. The best way to learn about the history of Japanese castles is to pay them a visit. Most are open to the public, and the admission fees are generally very low. You can even tour some of the country's castles for free.
Since a lot of wood was used to build castles in Japan, many were destroyed or fell into disrepair over the years. Fire was a big problem. As such, common is the Japanese castle that had to be rebuilt. You can find some original structures, however, and these include Matsue Castle. Found in the city of Matsue, this castle dates back to the 1600s, and thanks largely to the fact that it never saw battle, it is not a reconstruction. A museum found near Matsue Castle offers insight into the history of the structure, as well as the history of the region in general. This museum is called Matsue Kyodo Kan.
Another castle in Japan that has managed to stand the test of time is Matsuyama Castle. Also built in the 1600s, this Japanese medieval castle sits on a hill above the city of Matsuyama, and you can see its main building from virtually every vantage point within this city. You can take a chairlift up to the top of the hill should you wish to enjoy a tour, and it's also possible to hike up if you prefer. Among the highlights at Matsuyama Castle is the collection of swords and armor that is on display.
The history of Japan is very much tied to its castles, which had a feudal system much like Europe, and these structures helped defend their regions. It's not all about the battles that these structures may have experienced or how they housed powerful families, however. Also of interest is their value to the history of Japanese architecture. Himeji Castle is a perfect example of this. The largest and most visited of the Japanese castles, Himeji Castle avoided destruction on more than one occasion. As such, it is a wonderful example of Japanese castle architecture. The Himeji Castle complex is big, and there is a lot to see and do, so you'll want to dedicate at least few hours to your visit. One of the first UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Japan, Himeji Castle can be found on a hilltop in the city of Himeji. This city, should you be wondering, is approximately 400 miles west of Tokyo.
In addition to visiting ancient Japanese castles, those who wish to get in touch with the history of Japan and the history of the country's architecture can also consider visiting an imperial villa. Many of these royal complexes figure among the country's best cultural treasures, as is the case with the Katsura Imperial Villa. Found in the Kyoto suburbs, this villa complex was established in the seventeenth century and features some of the best traditional architecture that you will find anywhere in Japan. Visitors won't want to focus only on the buildings, however. The gardens are also renowned and have great cultural value.
Another great place to get in touch with traditional Japanese architecture and the history of Japanese aristocracy is the Tamozawa Imperial Villa. Found in Nikko, this villa dates back to 1632, and you can enjoy a self-guided tour if you please. You will have to make a reservation if you want to tour most of the Japanese imperial villas, but this is not the case with Tamozawa, which is good news for those who find themselves in the Nikko area.